The nutrients you absorb from your food lay the foundation for healthy skin, hair, and nails. In the winter, there tend to be fewer options for fresh fruits and vegetables, which means that people are often eating fewer bioflavonoids, vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients that support the skin and related structures. In addition, cortisol slows digestion and reduces digestive enzyme output. People with adrenal fatigue or under a great deal of stress often have difficulty digesting their food or absorbing the nutrients. In addition, stress causes the body to consume certain nutrients at a more rapid rate. Nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin C and certain minerals can easily become depleted. Because skin cells turn over in about 2-4 weeks, hair grows at the rate of approximately half an inch per month, and nails at about 1/10 of an inch per month, these tissues show the effects of suboptimal nutrition fairly quickly.
What You Can Do
To promote development of healthy skin, eat fresh, whole foods and avoid sugar and saturated fats. Digestive enzymes and other substances that enhance digestive function and intestinal integrity-such as L-glutamine, phosphatidylcholine, quercetin, slippery elm and ginger- can help with absorption and assimilation of nutrients. Certain nutrients-such as magnesium, manganese, zinc, vitamin C, 5-HTP and choline-support the body’s adrenals under stress.
Changes in Circulation
It is not enough to ingest and absorb the right building blocks for the construction of hair, skin, and nails. These must be delivered to the site of these tissues as well. Under stress, hormones involved in the “fight or flight” response prepare the body to react to an emergency by altering metabolism in a way that prepares for rapid muscular responses (such as running or fighting the threat), but somewhat ignores maintenance metabolism (such as digestion and growth). Blood, carrying a rich supply of oxygen and nutrients, gets shunted towards the muscles and away from other tissues, including the hands and feet. In fact, a core component of biofeedback training to combat stress is teaching people to increase blood flow to their extremities.5 In cold weather, blood is also diverted away from the extremities in order to retain body heat. As a result, fewer nutrients are delivered to these tissues.
What You Can Do
To increase circulation, practice some form of cardiovascular exercise daily. It helps dissipate stress hormones and increases circulation throughout the body. Relaxation or biofeedback training can also help you learn to control your blood flow. In addition, keep your extremities and head covered in the cold to retain body heat.
Winter can be tough on skin and bodies already challenged by stress, but with a few simple steps, you can ‘weather the weather’ and keep your skin, hair, nails and adrenals healthier and happier.
- Garg, A et al. Psychological stress perturbs epidermal permeability homeostasis: implications for the pathogenesis of stress-associated skin disorders. Arch Dermatol. 2001; 137(1):53-9.
- Uchakin PN, et al. Fatigue in medical residents leads to reactivation of herpes virus latency. Interdiscip Perspect Infect Dis. 2011; 2011:571340.
- Gaby AR. Natural remedies for Herpes simplex. Altern Med Rev. 2006; 11(2):93-101.
- Terezhalmy GT, et al. The use of water-soluble bioflavonoid-ascorbic acid complex in the treatment of recurrent herpes labialis. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol. 1978;45(1):56-62.
- Yucha, Carolyn and Doil, Montgomery. Evidence-Based Practice in Biofeedback and Neurofeedback. Wheat Ridge, CO: Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 2008.